The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is living up to its billing as one of the footballing spectacles of the year, and yesterday’s round of fixtures was delightfully littered with goals, particularly in Group D.
As always, this column will keep you updated with the latest happenings from the action-packed tournament, as results from Group D have made things very interesting heading into the final day.
Group D: Algeria 2-2 Burkina Faso
A brace from Baghdad Bounedjah helped Algeria salvage a dramatic late point against Burkina Faso to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
Les Fennecs have picked up two points from two Group D games, extending their awful AFCON form to five games without victory since their 2019 success (D3, L2).
Despite a disappointing opening draw against an unfancied Angola side, Algeria came into this game as firm favourites. And they imposed themselves on the contest from the get-go.
The two-time AFCON champions had several chances throughout the first period, almost breaking the deadlock after a mistake from Herve Koffi before coming close once more when Bounedjah took advantage of a defensive mishap and placed a shot narrowly wide.
Sofiane Feghouli had a chance to give Algeria a deserved lead on the stroke of half-time when Burkina Faso yet again failed to clear their lines, but Koffi was on hand to deny the Fatih Karagumruk forward.
Incredibly, for all of Algeria’s attacking threat, it was Burkina Faso who snatched the lead when Mohamed Konate pulled off a Robin van Persie-like header, extending his nation’s scoring run to 16 AFCON games.
Algeria hadn’t scored more than one goal in any of their last five AFCON games, yet they needed at least two in the second half to seal their first win of the tournament.
Fortunately, they drew level shortly after the break when Bounedjah pounced on a rebound from a Nabil Bentaleb shot.
However, Algeria found themselves behind again when Rayan Ait-Nouri’s mistimed attempted clearance caught Issa Kabore in the area, allowing substitute Bertrand Traore to bury his second goal of the tournament from the penalty spot.
Burkina Faso were moments away from sealing a place in the knockouts when Bounedjah struck again, hammering home a bullet header from a corner to salvage a point.
Despite the stoppage time heartbreak, Burkina Faso are in a solid position to qualify from Group D, having picked up four points.
Meanwhile, Riyad Mahrez and co will likely need a win over Mauritania in their final group match to stand any chance of advancing to the last 16.
Group D: Mauritania 2-3 Angola
A highly entertaining five-goal thriller at the Stade de la Paix saw Angola emerge on the winning side of a 3-2 scoreline, picking up their first AFCON victory since the 2012 edition.
Undefeated in their last six matches across all competitions, Angola enjoyed the marginal attacking advantage throughout an exhilarating opening exchange.
The game burst back into life around the half-hour mark. Less than a minute after Mauritania goalkeeper Neblu denied Pape Ibnou Ba in a one-on-one scenario, Angola broke the deadlock via a stunning scissor-kick from Gelson Dala.
However, Mauritania levelled matters two minutes before half-time as Sidi Bouna Amar embarked on a mazy dribbling run through a crowd of defenders before powering a shot into the bottom corner.
After the restart, Angola established their dominance with a ruthless three-minute spell that saw Dala bag his brace before Gilberto seemingly sealed maximum points with a clinical finish.
Five minutes after Gilberto’s strike, Aboubakary Koita gave Mauritania a lifeline with an unstoppable long-range strike that flew into the top corner, sparking mayhem in the stands.
You’d expect that strike to set up another cracking half an hour, but both nations registered only one additional shot on target throughout the rest of the contest.
The victory sent Angola top of Group D, level on points with final-day opponents Burkina Faso, setting the stage for another potentially electrifying fixture.
Having failed to pick up any points from their opening two games, Mauritania are on the verge of elimination and must beat Algeria to secure a third-place finish.
Group E: Tunisia 1-1 Mali
Mali moved a step closer to qualifying for a third consecutive AFCON knockout phase after playing out a 1-1 draw in a fiercely contested encounter with Tunisia.
Having suffered a shock defeat to Namibia in their AFCON opener, Tunisia were aware of the consequences of another loss against an in-form Mali side, so they came flying out the blocks in the opening stages.
However, the away side opened the scoring against the run of play when Lassine Sinayoko received a pass from Kamory Doumbia before firing a clinical strike into the far corner.
Undeterred, it took Tunisia ten minutes to respond as Hamza Rafia timed his run to perfection to convert from Ali Abdi’s intelligent cut-back.
After a frantic opening 25 minutes, both sides refused to cede control to the other. But Mali came close to retaking the lead when Doumbia spurned a decent opportunity before half-time.
The end-to-end nature of the contest continued into the second half, but a frustrating lack of cutting edge in the final third continued to prove the achilles heel for Mali.
Hamari Traore blasted a shot over from a tight angle before Sinayoko spurned another glorious chance, directing a close-range effort inexplicably over the bar, with time ticking into the final 20 minutes.
Fortunately for Mali, their profligacy in front of goal didn’t come back to haunt them, with Tunisia offered little by way of attacking threat, and both sides ultimately settled for a share of the spoils.
The result extends Mali’s unbeaten run across all competitions to ten matches (W7, D3), while Tunisia need a win against South Africa in their final group game to stand any chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse hospitalised after Cameroon game
Senegal manager Aliou Cisse was hospitalised with stomach pain after his side booked their place in the knockout phase with a 3-1 win over Cameroon on Friday.
The 47-year-old was admitted to a local hospital after the game in Yamoussoukro and spent the night there, although he returned to the fold yesterday after his condition improved.
Senegal face Guinea on Tuesday, but they must avoid defeat to advance as Group C winners.
Tanzania sack coach after audacious Morocco accusations
Tanzania have parted ways with manager Adel Amrouche just one game into their AFCON campaign after he accused Morocco of influencing referee appointments.
Amrouche was handed an eight-match suspension by CAF and fined $10,000 over his comments before the Tanzania Football Federation decided to fire the 55-year-old after just ten months in charge.
Amrouche’s remarks came in the build-up to Tanzania’s damning 3-0 defeat to Morocco in their opening game, and assistant manager Hemed Suleiman has been appointed caretaker boss for the rest of the AFCON campaign.
Morocco vs D.R. Congo – 2:00 pm (GMT)
After an emphatic opening game victory over Tunisia, Morocco are looking to seal a place in the knockouts when they take on D.R. Congo.
Walid Regragui’s side have scored 12 goals in their last five games, averaging 2+ goals per 90 minutes, and Congo will need something special to avoid becoming the latest victims of the AFCON favourites.
Zambia vs Tanzania – 5:00 pm (GMT)
Shortly after learning the result of the Morocco vs Congo matchup, Zambia and Tanzania will face off at the same venue, hoping for an outcome that keeps their AFCON dreams alive.
Zambia are unbeaten in their last four games against Tanzania (W2, D2) and will be looking to pile the misery on Group F’s bottom team.
South Africa vs Namibia – 8:00 pm (GMT)
Sunday’s fixture line-up rounds off with South Africa taking on Namibia, knowing defeat would significantly jeopardise their chances of securing a place in the last 16.
Bafana Bafana must treat this clash as a knockout encounter to avoid losing their first two consecutive games in an AFCON competition for the first time since 2008.
How to watch?
All AFCON games are broadcast live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. Numerous other live football streaming websites will allow you to watch the tournament in real time regardless of your location.
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